Relayer

(1974), 9.5/10
After comparing Tales to a padded bra, Wakeman quit Yes to pursue his solo career. He was replaced by Patrick Moraz, who helps push Yes into a more abrasive jazz-fusion direction. Anderson eschews his usual friendly spiritual-babble for an entire album side with the epic ‘Gates of Delirium’, based on Tolstoy’s War and Peace. It’s a more difficult listen than the average Yes album, as melody isn’t always the focus and it’s a dense mix, but it’s one of their most rewarding albums. It’s also one of their most coherent, following the Close To The Edge template of an excellent side long opener followed by two ten minute songs. ‘The Gates of Delirium’ is less of a symphony than ‘Close to the Edge’ or anything from Tales; rather than cycling through and returning to different melodies throughout its course, it sticks to a basic song structure before a lengthy duel between White’s percussion and Moraz’s keyboards, then climaxes in the beautiful ballad ‘Soon’. This lack of repetition makes it less immediate than their other twenty minutes epics, but it’s worth the effort; the uncharacteristic sustained fury of the band during the vocal section, the simple and uplifting melody that lifts out of the battle scene, and the beauty of the final conclusion. The other two songs aren’t quite on the same level, but they’re entertaining and among Yes’ best. ‘Sound Chaser’ is sonic insanity, constantly slowing and speeding up, while managing to be surprisingly catchy. The often criticised “Cha cha cha cha” sections are eccentric, but fit in perfectly. ‘To Be Over’ is the delicate ballad, this time with more of an eastern flavour than Yes had displayed previously. It’s not the best place to start, but Relayer is easily one of Yes’ strongest and most creative albums.

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